If you’ve been alive and breathing in recent decades, odds are good that you’ve at least heard about the miracle of Jesus in feeding 5,000 people in the wilderness near Bethsaida.
Jesus had been speaking to the crowd for a good part of the day and when evening began to approach, he asked Phillip and other disciples how they could feed the large assembly. The disciples wanted to disperse the crowd to head into town, but Jesus took some fish and bread and multiplied it sufficiently to feed everybody on the spot and still have 12 baskets full of uneaten food for leftovers.
“That’s just a fable meant to make Jesus look good,” claim the skeptics. Well, if you check out those “undesigned coincidences” in the four Gospels’ accounts of the miracle, Erik Manning and J. Warner Wallace tell us, it becomes clear their accounts are anything but fables.
Manning, a free-lance baseball writer and digital marketing specialist, writes the Is Jesus Alive blog, while Wallace is familiar to regular HillFaith readers as the cold-case detective of NBC’s “Dateline” program and chief of the coldcasechristianity.com apologetics foundation.
In a post I first encountered on The Poached Egg, Manning writes that “Detective J. Warner Wallace is a former-atheist-turned-Christian after looking at the gospels in a similar way he’d investigate crimes. Reading these as a skeptic caught his attention. Here’s how Wallace describes undesigned coincidences:
“The accounts puzzled together just the way one would expect from independent eyewitnesses.”
“When I first read through the Gospels forensically, comparing those places where two or more gospel writers were describing the same event, I was immediately struck by the inadvertent support that each writer provided for the other.
“The accounts puzzled together just the way one would expect from independent eyewitnesses. When one gospel eyewitness described an event and left out a detail that raised a question, this question was unintentionally answered by another gospel writer (who, by the way, often left out a detail that was provided by the first gospel writer).”
As an example, Manning notes that the Gospel of Matthew (Matt. 11:21) tells us at the outset of his account of the miracle that Jesus chided Chorazon and Bethsaida for their unbelief, while the Gospel of John (John 6:5) has Jesus asking Phillip how they can feed the huge crowd.
“Luke is the only gospel writer who gives us the location of the feeding of the 5000. Ah, this now explains why Matthew records Jesus’ chiding the city for their stubborn unbelief,” Manning continues.
“John doesn’t mention Bethsaida as the location of the miracle. But later John fills us in that Philip was from Bethsaida, which is why Jesus was asking him where they might find bread,” Manning said.
See the pattern of undesigned coincidences? One Gospel provides a specific detail, the significance of which is explained by one of the other Gospels, just as Wallace explained above.
“Such skills are especially handy when, for example, you are reading through testimony by a key witness in a congressional investigation.”
What, if anything, does this have to do with working on Capitol Hill? At first glance, it probably seems like less than nothing.
But one of the most valuable skills one can bring to a Hill job is the ability to parse words and understand how different words convey varying meanings, tones and responses.
Such skills are especially handy, for example, when you are reading through testimony by a key witness in a congressional investigation, the explanation from an executive branch bureaucrat regarding a constituent’s problem or a complicated question from an adversarial reporter covering your boss.
Here’s a challenge for you: Read Manning’s post all the way through and check his examples in the Gospels for yourself. The Gospels are full of those undesigned coincidences and teasing them out could be the best training you ever get for an important assignment from the boss.